Whistleblowing: Practical Lessons for Belgian Organisations

By Lucie Fournier, Associate at Jones Day 

1. Introduction

On December 6, 2023, Transparency International Belgium (“TIB”) and the Institut des Réviseurs d’EntreprisesInstituut van de Bedrijfsrevisoren (“IBR-IRE”) co-organized a conference in Brussels on the following topic: “Practical Lessons and Recommendations following the Transposition of Whistleblowing Rules into Belgian Law”. 

 The event was an opportunity to review in detail the practical steps required of companies to implement the new Belgian whistleblowing obligations in the workplace, with a focus on the sensitivities around the human element in managing a thorough corporate Whistleblowing program and ensuring adequate protection of employees, who raise concerns. Speakers also identified a number of issues arising in the implementation of the Belgian whistleblowing law, including certain deficiencies in the legal provisions, such as the partial legal protection for whistleblowers who are still exposed to criminal sanctions, as whistleblowing remains a highly technical area where the question of whether evidence is legally obtained and disclosed remains problematic. The practical challenges relating to whistleblowing within an organization were also addressed in detail, highlighting the need to have a detailed procedure and employee training on the whistleblowing obligations imposed by the law 

2. Whistleblowing

Whistleblowing is the activity of a person revealing information about a serious wrongdoing by a private or public organization, which may include, among others, corruption, fraud, theft of public funds, and similar. Individuals who report such wrongdoings (“Whistleblowers”) often face retaliation in various forms, such as harassment, firing, blacklisting, reputational damage, threats and even physical violence.  

 To ensure effective and adequate protection of whistleblowers from retaliation, and to facilitate their disclosures, the EU decided that an appropriate legal framework should be implemented by Member State governments. In particular, there is a need for strong whistleblower protection laws, their stringent enforcement by the authorities and their implementation in the workplace, both in the public and private sector.  

 In the past years, Transparency International has worked relentlessly by advocating for a dedicated EU Whistleblowing Directive. Our hard work has been successful, as the EU adopted the Whistleblowing Directive in December 2019. The EU Whistleblowing Directive requires all EU Member States to implement national legislation imposing certain minimum standards on legal entities for the protection of Whistleblowers. Both large corporations and SMEs are affected by these laws.  

For more information on the implementation of the Whistleblowing Directive into Belgian law, please click here


Legal disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. Nothing in this article is to be considered as a legal opinion or the rendering of legal advice. Transparency International accepts no responsibility for loss, which may arise from relying on information contained in this article.